Category Archives: Events and Ideas

Spells & Hexes, popular as ever

 

ludlowmedieval-2016-1

Last weekend, I ran a Scrivener’s Stall for Ludlow Medieval Fayre, at which I provided Spells, Recipes & Hexes to an astonishingly eager public. Lovely event! I wore a dubious medieval costume (blanket, kilt pin and big hat) and never looked up for four hours – except once to quell a squabble in the queue about whose turn it was.

People of all ages told me what they wanted, and then to a greater or lesser extent we collaborated on the spell, which I wrote on the parchment in my best italic.  Then we lit a stick of red sealing wax, and they applied the stamp.  Heads craned.  Several people asked me if the spells would work.

It was such fun that I’m keen to do it again – so if anyone you know needs a spell-writer for an event, then I’m your inky-fingered poet…

‘Around the Crow the weather’

It rained on Welshpool Poetry Festival, but didn’t dampen this great little celebration of words in Mid Wales.  I read with Gillian Clarke on the final evening, and am now wallowing in the delights of her new Picador Selected Poems.

But before that I ran a workshop for children.  Here’s a few pics and some very promising lines from a group of focused and inventive young poets.

Welshpool Crow wshop Jun2016 (3)

Write On! Young Writers go live!

On Saturday we had our penultimate meeting for this year.  That’s me, Kidderminster Young Writers and our assistant writer Nicholas Tulloch.  Everyone arrived with a bagful of papers, more or less fully constructed into a zine.

The tables vanished under card, paper, tracing paper, staplers, glue, glitter, ribbons and inspiration.  Chocolate brownies were ingested, for stamina.

“I’ve decided to do creative risk”, said John.

Kiddi Pop Up poster The zines were to be finished and left with Kidderminster Library, all ready to be displayed on Saturday 18 June, when at 11am this absolutely brilliant group of young people will be bringing their work to the public in the library in a stream of pop-up performances.  Everyone welcome.  And it’s free.

We practised with the mic.  And we were good.

Kidderminster Write On! Young Writers is one of the many young writers’ groups created and managed by Writing West Midlands and spread right across the region.

Here’s a sneak preview of the gorgeous zines to go into the display cabinet.

 

 

Finding Treasure in the Marches

Finding Treasure workshop 2016 (12)

Part of the Nummus Hoard, plough-dragged in its field

This morning 12 poets joined me and Peter Reavill, our regional Finds Liaison Officer, in a workshop exploring just some of the treasure trove of the Welsh Marches.  Peter blew us away with a mix of archaeological precision and rich storytelling – the hedge under which someone, in 1645, buried the Bitterley Hoard; the river ford where someone wrenched the Dinham Pommel from a sword, then hurled it into the waters of the Teme; the rhythmic, hour-after-hour sound of someone dressing a cutting-stone in the Paleolithic.

Finding Treasure workshop 2016 (1)

On the top floor of Ludlow Library, Peter Reavill makes handaxes new. 

Despite time being as ever too short, the poets produced the beginnings of characterful, muscular work.  Here they all are.

Finding Treasure workshop 2016 (10)

Poets deep in concentration, Peter still using every minute too.

And here’s the tyg, a 17th century loving cup.  On a night in 1645, the tyg’s owner drained his eggy, clovey, honeyed posset, then stacked it with his stash of coins, some of which dated back to Elizabethan shillings.  Perhaps the Royalists were going door-to-door in search of contributions to the cause.  Our man was having none of that.  He buried it.  But never dug it up.

Finding Treasure workshop 2016 (14)

The tyg, in which the Bitterley Hoard was found.  Left, the remains of a kid purse inside it.

I am so thrilled that in a mere two and a half hours the group came up with such exciting starts to poems.  More #FindingTreasure events are planned!  We’ll be publishing the poems that result!

Finding Treasure workshop 2016 (17)

Extract: A Charm Against Uncertain Borders, by Jean Atkin

 

Finding Treasure – gold, dust and detectorists

Viking troll wife pendant
For knifed into the bronze, my troll-wife
leads her horse down these same paths.
All night her long hand bridles him
with snakes to make him tame.

her long eye is my old amulet
she is the secret dark
inside of barrows

 

I’m working with Peter Reavill, the Regional Field Officer of the PAS – Portable Antiquities Scheme, looking at ways of developing a project.  I’ve written some poems about artefacts dug up here in Shropshire.  The extract above is from one of them – about a bronze Viking pendant dating from the 8th to the 11th century.  It was found near Oswestry, on the very edge of the Danelaw.  It was an object signifying cultural belonging, and was probably a good luck charm.

Our next activity though, is to offer a Poetry Workshop: Finding Treasure at which Peter will introduce some artefacts, and I will provide creative ways into writing about them.  It’s booking now – do reserve your place quickly!
flier PAS poetry JA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In which #Pen2Mic goes to #NAWE2015

Durham lights

Lumiere at Durham in shiny rain

Just home from this year’s NAWE Conference in Durham, a whirlwind of exciting ideas and interesting people passionate about writing, education and imagination.  Returning on the train last night I agreed with Liz Hyder (@LondonBessie) that it could not have taken only three days. More like a week.

This year Liz and I took our new workshop Pen To Mic, up to Durham for the Conference.  The point of Pen To Mic is that workshoppers write a new poem, edit it, prepare it for performance, learn microphone skills, and then perform their work to the rest of the group, so they all become each other’s audience.  All in 90 minutes.  We think 2 hours would work better!

Pen To Mic was scheduled for 9am on Sunday morning (which took a fair bit of coffee to counteract) and we were expecting a diminished band of sleepy workshoppers.  Imagine our surprise when 22 people arrived.

What made it work of course, was that we had such a skilled group, who knew what they were doing, and really took part with generosity and gusto.  Thank you everyone for your lovely feedback!

Here’s how it went:

me leading Pen to Mic

The group at work, writing their poems in response to prompts

Pen2Mic reading to wall

Reading to the Wall, a vital part of the workshop

Pen2Mic reading to wall2

Individual microphone coaching

Pen2Mic performing

And – the performance to audience

Pen2Mic performing 2

The memorable performance of a great poem that ended with a one-word sentence: ‘Damn.’

 

Poetry In The Museum Vaults – a first taste of what’s to come…

Museum Vaults group locked inFor almost six weeks I’ve been working with a marvellous group of people In The Museum Vaults at Ludlow Museum Resources Centre.  Each week a curator locks us into a different vault, where we make notes, take photos, and then I help along the writing, applying coffee and chocolate biscuits as you do.

We – and Ludlow Museum Resources Centre – hope this will become an exhibition of creative writing and artefacts next year.

Meantime, here’s a taster of some of the exciting new writing that’s emerging.  And some photographs, that I took, and that don’t match.  But hopefully you’ll get the idea.

Jpeg

Stones and Mammoth Bones

was it a terrified marmoset or a rock python
a giant toad – a bufo marinus – mid-croak
or an eagle-headed griffin… that made you stare?
Miriam

Stuffed, Tagged, Pinned

Stuffed, Tagged, Pinned

You, golden eyed, red burnished like sun on rusty tin, velvet ears pricked.
Magnificent you are.
Thin you are.  
Polly

Working Clothes & The Rustle of Silk

Working Clothes & The Rustle of Silk

It was such a plain dress; no frills or flounces, bows or lace, silk or taffeta. Somehow I could just picture you wearing it, your tall frame filling it as you walked down the summer lanes.  
Polly

Ladies, ladies, how fortunate you are!
Goddesses bathing in a sylvan landscape,
Your ample figures quite acceptable.
Today you would be hurried from the scene,
And sternly offered diet sheets.  
Catherine

Cow's Hair Suitcases

Hairy Suitcases

Who named these things? Wulfenite, marcosite, topaz and tourmaline,
olivine, garnet and aquamarine?
Was there a Miss or Mr Hach who named the Hatchbetine
or a mad professor who named Ogygiocarella debuchi from the Ordovician sea
of Llandeilo, where sheep now graze?  
Polly

Costume (3)
In the First World War a million uniforms died  
Gordon

I visited an archive full of clothes
hung high to the ceiling in double rows
and there were boxes and boxes of caps, shawls
and scarves, christening robes, aprons, bonnets
and shoes. A red cross uniform from the
First World War, a single Tudor sandal,
ice-skates and stoles. Each item had a number
and I relished the democracy of it all.  
Lizzie

Dolls House

Dolls House

During making iron,
dross is skimmed off the molten metal,
in order to pour good metal into moulds.

But what do we do with the quirky dross
of un-fileable museum items
Hide them behind the door.  
Gordon